Saturday, January 28, 2023

A festival experience: Mempho’s character shines through imperfections


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Photo by Anthony Merriweather / MTSU Sidelines 

Sidelines Multimedia Editor Anthony Merriweather traveled to the Mempho Music Festival, a relatively new festival with the promise of an atmospheric and Bonnaroo-esque weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. He shares his experience below:

Fall is slowly creeping into our lives, but the sun looms high and mighty, leaving us not to forget the haunting heat of the Tennessee summer. It’s quite fitting, considering the events set to take place in Shelby Farms Park. Prime festival season has come and gone, but the next wave of music experiences has inevitably swept in. In reality, it’s yet another Saturday in Memphis, but as you cruise down Walnut Grove Road, rocketing past endless blurs of cars, the presence of something unique nearing sets in – Mempho. In the belly of the beast, hidden by a cloak of trees and acres of nature, lies an environment rich and intimate.

Yellow school buses and eager festival-goers crawl up paved paths atop a hill as if they were ants filing into a nest to see their queen. Dust dances around the outskirt of the park near the entrance, engulfing your body and clinging to your lungs as a constant stream of cars file in, bouncing and creaking as they pack in like sardines on the uneven rocky field.

After making the steep trek to the gates, the terrain becomes more forgiving, still treacherous in its own way. A feeling of relief rushes through your body as you reach the hill’s apex. Overlooking the grounds you can nearly see the farthest edge of the festival. The foreground just below swoops down directly into one of the two main stages.

On day one, the atmosphere is calm, with only dozens of people pacing from end to end until the grounds are blanketed with music-lovers – local and traveling. Rows of beer stands, barbeque trucks and vendors are scattered throughout, patiently waiting to be greeted. Mempho is spacious but still small enough to run laps, giving Mempho the feel of a party in someone’s oversized backyard rather than a music festival.

Over the course of two days, the festival’s dynamic shifts from enjoying amenities and interacting with like-minded peers to focusing solely on the musicians you spent hundreds and thousands of dollars to see perform live. More heads begin to give their undivided attention once their favorite, more well-known artists grace the stage. The crowds grow due to notoriety, and surprisingly, they aren’t filled with glowing smartphones raised to the sky.

Much like a Bonnaroo, Mempho creates a sense of community. It’s not nearly as large in scale or developed, making the Memphis-based festival special with its slight imperfections.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Sydney Wagner, email

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